Only the Black Community Can Fix Black Education

Walter Williams explains why.

What needs to be done is not rocket science. Our black ancestors, just two, three, four generations out of slavery, would not have tolerated school behavior that’s all but routine today. The fact that the behavior of many black students has become acceptable and made excuses for is no less than a gross betrayal of sacrifices our ancestors made to create today’s opportunities.

Some of today’s black political leadership is around my age, 75, such as Reps. Maxine Waters, Charles Rangel, John Conyers, former Virginia governor Douglas Wilder, Jesse Jackson and many others. Forget that they are liberal Democrats but ask them whether their parents, kin or neighbors would have tolerated children cursing to, or in the presence of, teachers and other adults. Ask them what their parents would have done had they assaulted an adult or teacher. Ask whether their parents would have accepted the grossly disrespectful behavior seen among many black youngsters on the streets and other public places using foul language and racial epithets. Then ask why should today’s blacks tolerate something our ancestors would not.

The sorry and tragic state of black education is not going to be turned around until there’s a change in what’s acceptable and unacceptable behavior by young people. The bulk of that change has to come from within the black community.

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7 replies »

  1. Not to say this is an all encompassing excuse or the only factor, but schools are little prisons. I agree the black community will need to take control in order to fix whatever problems exist and that may include improving a culture of respect, but it also involves totally reforming the way education is done. Poor communities and cultural communities have different needs to fulfill than the standardized one passed down from on high would prepare children for (all communities do) and that means different eduction systems for each one. Seems like our current system is designed to promote brain drain. How can a community succeed when all those who succeed are lured away by high paying government-industrial-finance jobs?

    It happened to me. But I won’t go back because there’s no opportunity where I’m from. For CA, my hometown is rather culturally backwards and in possession of very little academic, philosophical or entrepreneurial merit.

  2. Here’s some ideas on this from Lloyd Lacy’s blog:


    I agree that education needs to be reformed from top to bottom. The first order of business is to get rid of compulsory education laws that create a captive audience for the school-industrial-complex. The second is to totally decentralize control over public schools. The third is to eliminate all laws that suppress competition to state-run schools, and the fourth is to cease funding schools with tax revenue and convert schools to fee for service enterprises like any other service, thereby eliminating the guaranteed market that state schools currently have. I’d like to see a proliferation of all kinds of alternative schools representing all sorts of competing educational methods as well as cultural values. Let the best team win.

    Caveat: This is an issue where the totalitarian humanists will fight us as hard as any other. Public schools are their churches.

  3. ^^

    Maybe the above is a silly question. I’m new to your blog and just took a look at the Statement of Purpose. I just shudder to think at gifted poor kids with no access to books at all.

    I do find it interesting that Mr. Lacy is basically calling for re-segregated schools. You’re right, the people like Tim Wise, who believe the main point of schooling is indoctrination and ensuring equal results between whites and POC, are going to fight you tooth and nail. Wise claims that standardizing English is itself racist and is willing to hold back smart white kids to keep them from outpacing the lowest common denominator.

    Lacy’s option is preferable. Leave those of us who love the English language and desire a Western education to learn in peace.

  4. That’s a very good question. Several points:

    1. I don’t merely advocate abolishing state-run schools while keeping everything else the same. The kind of economic decentralization I favor would (hopefully) lack the kinds of extreme polarization in the distribution of wealth we see at present. Through the elimination of state-imposed economic privilege and/or repression, we’d likely have fewer of the super-rich (the plutocracy) and fewer of the extreme poor (the so-called “underclass”).

    2. Funding of schools is hardly egalitarian in nature at present. The primary source of funding is local property taxes, supplemented by all kinds of subsidies from the various layers of the state. Everyone with experience on this question knows that affluent suburban public schools can often be “state of the art” while schools in poor communities are often, well, less than optimal.

    3. I suppose a happy medium or transitional phase might be to implement vouchers similar to the concept of a negative income tax whereby those with limited means receive assistance. The vouchers could be used anywhere. There could also be other kinds of funding programs that are independent of the state. Keep in mind that the polio vaccine, one of the most important medical breakthroughs in history, was developed without a dime of state revenue:

    4. As an anarchist, I don’t really believe in state-run or financed organizations of any kind, though the abolition of public libraries is probably somewhere around number 10,000 in terms of state actions to oppose. I’d suppose I’d favor making public libraries into consumer cooperatives.

    Btw, when I say I oppose public schools, this doesn’t mean I want to replace public schools with nothing but snobby prep schools and parochial schools. I’m very interested in forms of alternative education like A.S. Neill’s Summerhill experiment and Franciso Ferrer’s Modern School. I don’t advocate turning all schools into business enterprises either (“Schools R Us, Inc”). I’d prefer that public schools be converted into cooperative ventures co-managed by parent, student, teacher, administrator, and community organizations.

  5. Tim Wise is not the only enemy of a decentralized education. When the majority of Blacks approved a decentralist New York school system, the labor unions took it as a threat to their existence.

    I agree with Walter’s points more than Lacy’s. What annoys me about some Black conservatives (not necessarily Williams, but moreso the Larry Elder crowd) is their denial of Blacks who are DOING these things:

    “Why must this be taught? Because no one will solve our problems, meet our challenges or forge and maintain our freedom for us, but us. But, the will and the skills to do so are not granted automatically at birth. They must be developed and reinforced by the home, spiritual institutions, educational institutions, community organizations, and most importantly, by adult example.”

    Personally, the reason I’m against Lacy’s perspective is because I don’t see a need to “erase” Western-style education, unless one considers this ridiculous engine fueld with factory-style education geared toward standarized testing “western.” Many Blacks are indigenous to this country and prefer American values/culture to Afrocentrism. I’m fine with that, which puts me at ideological odds with some of my cultural nationalist comrades. Nonetheless, I still see the work of CIBI and other ACE institutions to be imperative to survival or Black Americans.

  6. I’m all for setting up alternative education programs whose purpose is to identify kids with exceptional ability but disadvantaged circumstances and help them out. I just don’t think such efforts should be run by the state, that’s all.

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